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Union residents ask Evansville to consider them in growth plans

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GINA R. HEINE
May 3, 2011
— Several Union Township residents questioned Monday night why the city of Evansville has to grow and wondered why the town wasn’t more involved in planning for the projected growth.

“I just don’t understand what the city is trying to do,” said Rich Templeton, who has lived on Evansville Brooklyn Road for 67 years. “Growth is something you allow, and I really don’t think you’ve got to keep sprawling out and out and out. Why don’t you start going up and save some of the farmland.”


Templeton was one of 15 people who spoke Monday during a public hearing at the city’s plan commission meeting about an amendment to the city’s Smart Growth Plan. The commission later unanimously recommended approval to the city council of the amendments, which for the first time add a 20-year growth boundary to the city map.


The council also will have a public hearing on the amendments.


The hearing was a continuation of one that started April 4, when no comments were taken because so many people packed City Hall that about 100 people lined up outside. Monday night, about 80 people attended at the larger venue—the Performing Arts Center inside Evansville High School.


City Planner John Stockham opened with state estimates that predict the city will grow by about 8,200 people by 2030. Evansville historically has grown by about 40 single-family homes per year, he said, and the city has 291 vacant platted lots. That equals about 7.3 years of inventory, he said.


Stockham also addressed the issue so many town residents were concerned about: city annexation.


The only two legal ways Evansville could annex Union land is by a petition from the majority of landowners or if the city and town enter a mutual boundary agreement, he said.


The 20-year growth boundary line was added after planners determined the township areas that the new city wastewater treatment plant could service, with four new lift stations, he said.


George Franklin, a supervisor in Union, wondered where the city plans to grow when city officials say they have no plans to annex in the near future.


“I would like to know where are you going to grow without taking in all of our subdivisions? … It just doesn’t make sense to me. I would like to see more common sense here and work together and talk about this more,” he said. “I just think if you take all our subdivisions, where’s our tax base?”


Union Supervisor Kim Gruebling received applause after recommending the commission table the issue for six months, “and see what we can do about working together on a plan.” Since the city has enough vacant lots for seven years, he said, tabling the plan probably wouldn’t hurt.


City officials stated at the meeting and in newspaper articles that the city has no plans for annexation in the near future, Gruebling said, so he asked that that be put in writing in the amendments to ease residents’ concerns.


The commission agreed to add language stating the city could only annex land through a landowner petition or mutual boundary agreement with the town.


While the commission heard repeated requests for the city to include town residents in growth discussions, Mayor Sandy Decker noted four town residents served on the original city Smart Growth committee.


She said she attended many of the Union Smart Growth meetings, and no city residents had a seat at the table.


“I respectfully am scratching my head at why we’re making an amendment to our Smart Growth Plan,” she said, “and I am hearing that we have to have everybody at the table, and that wasn’t the case when the plan was put together for the Town of Union, and I’m just making that observation.”


Evansville, Union meeting together

The Evansville City Council and Union Town Board met for the first time last month to discuss how they can work better together. That discussion resulted in an agreement to continue joint monthly meetings to explore collaboration and growth issues.


The city and town officials will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the Evansville Fire Station, 425 Water St., Evansville. The agenda includes a history on the relationship between the town and city and a presentation by state officials on extraterritorial jurisdiction and boundary agreements.



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